Time to read: 10 minutes
Before I became a mother anyone who knew me would describe me as hard working, someone with a high work capacity and very driven. I took pride in that description because my parents bragged about it, my friends tried to emulate it and some even envied me for it. Somewhere along the way of my life I became very attached to this external validation – I wanted (and still want) to be liked, praised and if I am really honest, I wanted to win.
Growing up I heard a lot about the “American Dream” – that anyone who works hard enough will become successful and wealthy. The underlying message I heard was that if you want to be winning the game of life – hard work and money were very important. So I developed my “hustle muscle” believing it was the way I would achieve my dreams.
As I start growing into adulthood I am realizing there is a whole side to this story that isn’t discussed. This blog post is telling that side of the story.
I remember talking with my parents about my future where I was consistently encouraged to chase after professions that were lucrative – a doctor or a lawyer were the main suggestions. Coming from a Jewish family this is not far from the stereotype.
There were a few moments I questioned the narrative – one being in school where my passion was ignited when I was working with children. I really wanted to become a kindergarten teacher. I loved the idea of ample time off to spend with loved ones, moving at the pace of the students, days filled with play, laughter and singing.
When I talked about these dreams I would be met with responses such as “lucky the benefits are great because the pay is not” or “I guess you will have to marry rich”. One time I responded explaining how I felt I could be happy with any amount of money and I really just loved working with children, only to hear “You’re naive – when you get older you’ll understand.”
Over and over the importance of money, hustle and hard work were emphasized. So I pushed my desires aside and continued to search for my way to success.
After finishing my Masters degree in Teaching I took a year off to pursue my athletics – that is where I received the most validation. I was competing in Olympic Style Weightlifting. I would share my journey on instagram and a blog I created where I started to get a lot of traction. 500 followers turned into thousands pretty quickly and amidst the chaos I started a business (Working Against Gravity Nutrition Coaching) which postponed becoming a teacher indefinitely.
All of a sudden I was winning.
I felt like I understood what people were talking about my whole life. I was working 80+ hour weeks, making a great income and growing in popularity. Not only was the financial success there but the validation for my hard work, discipline and impact was endless – it was addicting. I would be lying if I said I didn’t start buying into the stories I was told – that making money, working really hard and having a huge impact was THE recipe for a happy life.
Maybe I really was naive all that time.
Then two major events changed it all:
#1 I met Michael – my husband.
I will save our love story for another day and just say that it happened very quickly. In almost an instant I knew that we would get married, have a family and grow old together. One of the first things that Michael gave me when we met was Brené Browns Daring Greatly. The mixture of timing in my life and wanting more than anything to impress him led to this book having a profound impact on me. Brené taught me about vulnerability and living a wholehearted life.
“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” – Brené Brown Daring Greatly
“Living a connected life ultimately is about setting boundaries, spending less time and energy hustling and winning over people who don’t matter, and seeing the value of working on cultivating connection with family and close friends.” – Brené Brown Daring Greatly
This planted a seed inside me that flowered into an insatiable desire to understand myself or better yet, get to know who I even was. I had spent my life taking on the desires of others and striving for the accolades and validations that I was told would make me whole. I worked my ass off and actually found myself at the top.
When I got there – to the top of the mountain – the truth is, it felt amazing. I was filled with pride, I was having so much fun and was passionate about my work. Then there was a little voice inside my head whispering “Is this for you? or for everyone else?”. Plus, when does it end? Do I keep up this pace forever? How on Earth will I have a family at this rate?
I looked around at the business Masterminds I was a part of – events where entrepreneurs get together and share resources/support – and most of them who had been in it a while did not have lives I envied. They were generally overweight, divorced, addicted to their screens and overworked. Was this what I was setting myself up for?
I spent the better part of the next 4 years in every workshop or seminar you can think of. I consumed dozens of personal development books, listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts and hired coaches/mentors to help me in my discovery. I met and read about people who I did want to live like – their lives were balanced, they were in conscious committed partnership and seemed to be living life to its fullest. Some were rich, some were not. Some had millions of followers, some had no social media at all.
One of the common themes that came through about myself was the strength in my “masculine” traits. I am going to write a blog post about “Using my Masculine to Become More Feminine” which will explain a little more (comment on this post and validate me so I am more motivated to do it haha!).
Just to provide some context – I am referring to masculine and feminine as energies that live within each of us. This is not to be confused with male and female. Women, men and everyone in between have masculine and feminine tendencies. In, The Way of the Superior Man, David Deida declares that everyone has a core energy, meaning at their core they are more one or the other.
Masculine qualities include: individual, doing, structured, linear, assertive, focused, dominant
Feminine qualities include: collective focused, being, flowing, open, patient, intuition, nurturing
My masculine qualities were not only strongly developed, they were what everyone said they loved about me. I was a doer, action taker, focused and assertive woman that built a successful business. I could directly correlate much of my success (if not all) to the development of these skills, yet at my core I knew I was feminine. Or at least if nothing else I was weaker on that side of the spectrum.
I wanted to explore my own feminine energy and see what it would feel like to be more developed in that way – my thought was I would become more balanced overall and I was also curious about the impact it would have on my relationship (I will write more on that in the article “Using my Masculine to Become More Feminine”).
Initially I had some fears about losing my “edge”. What if I developed my feminine side and lost my ability to focus, drive forward, achieve and do? I expressed these fears to our mentor Annie Lalla and she said something that stuck with me. “Adee, you have spent so much time developing these traits that you could put 100% of your time and energy into developing the feminine and the masculine would still be there – it is not going anywhere.” It was the exact affirmation I needed to push forward.
#2 I got pregnant
Pregnancy is the ultimate feminine rite of passage. As soon as I decided to become a mother my doing, focusing, individual and structured self wasn’t serving me the same way it once had. Pregnancy and raising a child can be unpredictable. My focus changed from moment to moment. Instantly every move I made and each thing I ate included thinking of them. I could not control or plan my way through this one.
When Michael and I prepared for pregnancy and parenthood we spent hours upon hours discussing how our lives would change. One decision we made was that I would be the primary caregiver who is mostly responsible for baby duties (this wasn’t without its hiccups – see “Our Biggest Parenting Obstacle”). This meant that my focus would shift more towards our family life.
This is a realm that is well suited to the feminine traits. All the more reason to double down on my goal of “becoming more feminine”. I used my focus and organization to help us transition things at work and then began incorporating more and more practices in my life that worked my feminine muscle. I meditated, sang, cooked, danced, went for walks, sat in silence, spent time in nature and supported members of my community in ways I hadn’t previously done. Soon enough I could tell that there was a shift happening inside me. I found myself with less stress and anxiety, more intimate and beautiful moments with loved ones and overall a slowing down which was new and nice.
Once our baby made it earth side I felt ready to take on motherhood. I had previously worried about my personal identity shift from entrepreneur to mother and this prep work was just what I needed to ease myself into it. I savored my maternity leave – tummy to tummy time, long walks, no plans and just BEING. How luxurious right?!
I had a suspicion that I was feminine at my core and now I truly felt like I could use those skills more comfortably.
So, what is the problem?
After maternity leave I headed back to work (still as the primary caregiver) and I started to feel a weird sensation. I am not sure there is a way to appropriately explain it in words but I will try. It felt like I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile or maybe a better way to explain it is that I was wasting time – the story in my head was “you’re worthless” – pretty nasty, I know. Getting back on meetings, social media and all that comes with it reminded me of my old friend – praise and adoration. I would work and get “wow, you can really do it all!” or when I made it to the gym “it is so inspiring that you are doing this with a small baby” or if we had a successful launch I got a huge rush. Then I would see others doing all these amazing things – winning competitions, climbing mountains, being invited to guest on super famous podcasts, building major businesses – and I felt so much envy/jealousy.
I realized that there is a flaw in our society as a whole which especially impacts those that LOVE external validation (most of us). These new skills I spent so much time developing are invisible and wildly undervalued. I spent so much time learning to regulate my emotions, I slowed down to enjoy the present moment, I cleaned and cooked to nourish my family, I spent hours wearing and breastfeeding and rocking my son to sleep. All of these things are invisible to the public and even to my husband which meant they weren’t being praised, noticed or valued. No one was saying “wow – I am so impressed with how calm your home feels” or “It is really amazing the time you dedicate to laying on the couch with your new baby”.
I have always known the stigma associated with being a stay at home parent and now I truly understand that it is complete bullshit. This doesn’t just go for parents – this also goes for partners who agree to stay home and support the house or anyone who is in a position that easily flies under the radar. Just because it doesn’t make tons of money or generate fame does not make it less valuable.
A quote I love from Charles Eisenstein:
“Maximizing money, we devalue everything that money cannot buy.”
Money can’t buy a mothers loving touch, time, presence, joy and stillness. When anyone I meet takes a second to think about this there is an obvious “duh” look in their eye – however they don’t often taken an unprompted second to think about it or when they meet someone who answers “I stay at home with the kids” in response to “what do you do?” there is a tinge of judgment (that judgment used to be from me!). That, to me, is telling.
You can see how much money someone makes, their business they built, the impact they have on their followers, the fame they generate or the hustle they are putting forth.
You don’t see the person loving the kids so they develop a sense of worthiness. You don’t see the one keeping the house calm and peaceful, being the leader in conflict resolution, cooking and cleaning, or keeping track of all the things that need to get done.
It seems that what we don’t see, we don’t value.
When you put the two side by side it is easier to see how ridiculous this is:
Let’s compare making a million dollars to rocking your baby to sleep while they are teething.
How can you compare the value of one to the other? How can we even quantify the impact that person rocking their baby will have on the world? Maybe that child grows up to become a teacher and the love and warmth from their caregiver was the seed to their compassion, empathy and patience. Maybe they become your grandchild’s teacher.
The real question is – is it even worth trying to compare? The answer for me is a clear and resounding no.
Being an entrepreneur is awesome. Making money is fun and exciting. Doing, planning and organizing can feel great. Having a huge impact is important and worthwhile.
Being a parent is awesome. Making space to take care of yourself is fun and exciting. Being, flowing and nurturing can feel great. Having any impact (even on just yourself) is important and worthwhile.
The invisible skills are the most undervalued.
So what can we do?
We can start by –
Doing this for others:
- Praising our friends and partners for taking space, slowing down and being a supporter.
- Noticing the invisible skills – the cleaning behind the scenes, the cooking before you arrive, the way someone leaves you feeling and appreciate them for it.
- Be impressed by communication skills, emotional regulation and presence.
- When someone tells you they are a stay at home parent – celebrate them and get curious about what that is like.
- Appreciate how much energy it takes to do the things you can’t see and search for ways to contribute to their lives.
Doing this for ourselves (talking to the invisible skill masters):
- Ask for praise and appreciation when we need/want it – this is a major Jedi move – Michael and I recorded a whole podcast episode on it HERE.
- Talk with the trusted people in our lives about our feelings.
- Take pride in all the ways we show up – tell people about it, reward ourselves for it.
- Avoid people, places, or apps that trigger comparison.
- Make friends with other people who also master the invisible. Other feminine beings that will see us, understand us and celebrate us.
- Carve time to reflect on how we are living – are we proud? Happy? Doing things we think other people want? Doing things we truly want? If out of alignment – take action and change.
Doing this for our children:
- Teach them how to remember their breath when they are feeling big things and celebrate it like they scored the game winning goal.
- Point out people in love, sitting in silence, helping and supporting others.
- Spend time in nature.
- Encourage play.
- Follow their interests.
- Do things without a timeline or schedule or rush.
- Show them through our own actions how we can do all of the above.
I know our Western culture will teach the value of the masculine and we can do the leg work on valuing the feminine.
I would love to rewrite the “American Dream” – that anyone can be happy and successful if they follow their heart. The underlying story being that learning about yourself and your own desires is important.
Today most people who know me would describe me as nurturing, generous, flexible as well as hard working, driven and assertive.
I like it 🙂